Exiled and Free

This past week Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election. I know that many of you are elated about this and many of you are angry. Others of you are in the middle and are going about life in a normal fashion. How can we as Christians not only grow more mature in Christ but also offer something more substantial than election results to others? Peter writes: 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Peter gives us great substance to find great hope. We are a new people, a new nation not because of a human political leader or system or ideal, but rather because we have been called out of sin and darkness and into God's presence. We have been given mercy and did not deserve it. Our salvation is our new identity. 

A nation is made up of people who are bound together by some commonality. It could be a land mass, a king, a president, a flag or the laws of the land. But Christians are called into a new nation under the commonality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter is setting up the basis for the instruction that will follow. He has told us what we are, a holy nation, and now he will tell us how to live. Look at what he says next. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

We are strangers on this earth because we are citizens in the new kingdom that God has given us in Jesus. If you have faith in Jesus you are not a Republican, a Democrat, or a Libertarian first. If you profess faith in Jesus you are not white, black, or Asian first. If you profess faith in Jesus Christ then you are immediately an exile of this world and a citizen of the Kingdom of God first.

If people view you as a political party first then you immediately lose your witness for Christ with those who don't identify with your political agenda. Our faith is not a political one - those are the passions of this world. Our faith is that a King has brought mercy to those who were in the darkness of judgment. 

In fact, Peter says that as exiles, we are at war with the passions of this world. The passions of our flesh have been on display over the past several years as this election cycle has steamrolled our country. The human heart has been put on display and everyone is talking past one another. If your identity is mainly political then your only hope is to talk louder and more persuasive than your opponents.

But Christian, you are an exile. You are not an American first, you are a citizens of the Kingdom of God first. You live under a new law. Your law is to love God and to love others. Everything we do is to be from a motive of loving God and loving others. Yes, even your vote should have been from your love of God and others. If you voted for any other reason - fear, anger, hatred - than you did not vote as the exile you have been called to be. 

This election played to the passions of the flesh. Making a country great. Fear of opponents. Fear of terrorism. Clamoring for our supposed rights while crushing the rights of the unborn. Safety. Dollars. The list is long. Peter offers something different. He says that we are citizens of something new, something greater, something eternal. 

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

One of the main narratives I have been noticing is how we are supposed to address our children about the results of this election. I might argue that how we set up the election in the first place will most likely drive our conversation the morning after an election. If your kids believe the world hinges on the election it will be much harder to convince them that everything is in God's control when your candidate doesn't win. 

I would encourage you to teach your children that although these things matter and that we should be involved, that our primary citizenship is elsewhere. Teach them the culture of the new kingdom and the morning after conversations will be redemptive opportunities whether or not your team lost. Teach your kids that every human institution is in place because God allowed it. 

Peter was instructing his congregation to honor a government that was suppressing and killing the church. The reason we are to honor those systems is because God has a purpose in them. 

What encouragement can you find in this today? Some of us are way too happy about the election results. Others of us are way too angry about the election results. What is true is that the system of America has spoken. But even greater than that, God has spoken. God places rulers and authorities in their position. God spoke on Tuesday in the same way he spoke when he placed Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Sennacherib, Caesar, Nero, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and now Donald Trump in power. God is in control.  And he is bringing about a greater kingdom - not through the means of men, but through his means of the Gospel. 

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

There is so much I could write about this passage but the sentence that has been striking the core of my heart is, "Live as people who are free." Americans love to talk about freedom. We essentially want the freedom to do whatever we want. We want the freedom to live as we please regardless of what the pleasure might do to others. We don't want to be told what to do. But Peter has turned this American ideal on it's head. He gives us explicit and binding instructions and then tells us to live like the free people that we are! 

When the Gospel rules our hearts, and we live as exiles in this broken world, we are truly free! When our identity is not in politics or other lesser gods, we are free to to serve God by loving him and others. We are free to honor everyone regardless of their race, creed, politics, or actions toward us. When we are free we are able to honor everyone regardless of our disagreements with them. When we are freed by the Gospel we have the capacity to love one another. When we have been freed by the Gospel we can even honor an Emperor who would have us stripped of all liberty and killed. 

Let me just offer this one explicit example about being truly free. Today, you might face someone who has the exact opposite feelings on this election than you. If you are enslaved to the passions of this world then your reaction will be to become angry, fearful, and to lash out at this person. But if you have been freed by the Gospel, you can still disagree with this person but love will reign. Love will reign over your reaction and you will see this person, flawed as they might be, as a person created in the image of God. You are free to love them even though they disagree with you because the Gospel supersedes all other concerns in your life and the Gospel calls you to a radical love because you have been radically loved. 

The Gospel is radical in it's freedom. If your identity is in anything lesser than Jesus than you are a slave to the passions of this world. But that is not what you are any longer brother! That is not who you are any longer sister! You have been called out of the darkness of the passions of this world and into the freedom of a new identity in Jesus Christ. You are an exile here - a stranger. But there is a greater Kingdom growing of which you are a citizens and a saint. 

My prayer is that our church is not divided by the boundaries of red and blue and everything in between. But that we are united under the banner of the Gospel, the work of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom to which God has called us. 

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